Many young Cambodians are coming together and creating groups and associations with the clear goal of changing the country for the better.
At age 22, Rem Chandara started the Pursat Alumni Group, which has nearly 200 members. Their slogan is “together, we help our homeland”.
The values of today’s young generation are becoming compromised as they face dangerous social ills, such as drug addiction, alcohol abuse and gangs, he said.
“We grew up in our hometown and that shapes who we are now, so we should do something to help our homeland. We can also strengthen the bond between students and former graduates, to provide a sense of solidarity and loyalty.”
Recently, the Pursat Alumni Group participated in a community service project, in which they distributed study materials to impoverished students in the provinces – they also helped the students with their studies.
Enrich, established in 2009, is an independent club that is not-for-profit and not affiliated with any political group. According to Heng Pheakdey, the founder, the purpose of Enrich is to develop the talents of the younger generation.
“Our mission is to train, develop, and produce outstanding youth who posses all the necessary skill to be informed, respected, effective, and productive in the Cambodian workforce,” he said.
Now, Enrich has 20 full-time members and hundreds of volunteers. Heng Pheakdey said that the club has carried out a number of activities such as cleaning beaches, planting trees and carrying out youth seminars.
The Cambodian government recently drafted a controversial law regulating the activity of NGOs. Widespread concern over the law has been expressed, and the law has been under fire from both national and international legal experts.
“I feel a little worried about the law, but if the law is transparent, we can still serve the people and help develop the country without leaning towards any political party,” said Rem Chandara.
“We are preparing our documents for a formal registration of our association at the Ministry of Interior,” he said.
Heng Pheakdey cannot tell yet whether the draft law will affect his organisation or not.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of Cambodian Defenders Project, said that the draft law extends to all types of associations.
“Right now the government is not tight with enforcing the law, but I do not know whether the draft law will be enacted or not,” he said. “The problem is with registering the organisation.”
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said that right now the law is still up for debate.
“If the organisation wants to be recognized by the society and public, the organisation should register. But if they just carry out normal activities in their region, they need not do it,” he said.